Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Do I Write For?


It is blog chain time once more, and Michelle has given us a question from the business side of writing, asking:

Do you write for the market or for yourself? Why? Are there times you do both? Or times when you've written something specifically because it was "hot" at the moment? If so, how did it turn out?

And my answer is, "Uh-uh, huh, of course, I don't never always do that."

Now why am I answering with all the straightforwardness of a politician trying to skirt the latest scandal? I guess because I feel like this is one of those questions where if you say, "Yes, I write for the market" then you look like you are completely lacking in artistic integrity and are writing some pale sad insipid poorly disguised carbon copy of Davinci Code, Harry Potter, Twilight, or some other bestseller.

On the other hand, if you write for yourself than you paint the picture of the tortured artist, sitting in a coffeehouse (NOT Starbucks, a serious artist would never be seen anywhere so unoriginal), wearing all black and scribbling their novel (written entirely in free verse) into a notebook.

Okay, so neither of these are flattering portraits. Also, none of the writers I know fit into either one of these molds. Therefore - there must be some other in between option, where we are aware of the markets, but also aware of who we are as writers.

I like to think of it in driving terms (and maybe this analogy is occurring to me because I was in a car for 13 hours on Monday driving back to Tennessee after an Easter trip to visit my family in Buffalo. This was on top of the overnight trip last Wednesday that took 11 hours.). The book we're writing and the books we want to write are the road before us. Meanwhile the side-view mirrors let us keep track of the other drivers on the road and what they are up to.

This isn't some sleepy little country road we're driving down either, but a California style freeway with several lanes of traffic. The drivers in those either lanes are other writers. And yes, the sparkly black Hummer stretch limo with Stephanie Meyers hanging out of the moon roof and "woooing" (not a diss, if I was her, I'd be "woooing" too) does draw our attention maybe a moment longer than it should. Still, the majority of our attention is centered on that road before us, while peppered in are those glances at the side-view mirrors, just to keep track of who else is on the road with us, and maybe to see if we need to change direction or move into a different lane.

I would add two screaming children in the backseat into this analogy, but I don't really have anything for them to represent - except a horrifically accurate portrait of my actual life.

So which do you choose: writing for the market, yourself, or some combination of the two?

And to keep following this chain you can find Rebecca before me and Amanda directly after!

24 comments:

  1. I agree, it definitely has to be both at the same time. The driving analogy is perfect.

    I find that I sometimes avoid something that is really popular only because I don't want to look like I'm just trying to do what everyone else is. But at the same time, if you write a fantasy and let's say it's about medieval knights and elves and that is not "in" at the moment, you might not even get a glance by an agent.

    But like everything else in life, it's about balance. :)

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  2. Love the analogy and creates a great visual. It's sort of a catch 22 but speaking for myself, it began all for myself as a challenge to see what I could do. Now the thought is in the back of my mind about getting published. For now though, I have to keep practicing and learning. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit it all in.

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  3. I think you're right that there has to be a third option. I would guess most of us fit somewhere in between. Great answer!

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  4. The analogy fits great. You can also take it a step farther, saying there are writers still parked in the driveway wondering if writing a novel is something they want to do or not while afraid to press down on the gas pedal and take that chance.

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  5. Oh, this is perfect! I definitely agree, here. Either mold has negative associations, and, really, I think it's all about toeing the line, as it is with so many other things.

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  6. Perfect analogy! And the two screaming kids probably inflict the same kind of torture that rejections and waiting on queries and submissions inflict :D

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  7. Bahahahaha! What a great analogy. I can't stop laughing :)

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  8. I was going to say I agree with you that it shouldn't be one or the other and that I liked your analogy, but everyone else already said that. So I'll add something new: by following the highway, you are forced to take the same path everyone else uses. If you want to go off in your own direction, you need to get an ATV and leave the road. ;)

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  9. Considering that sweet romances aren't exactly "in", I'd say I write for myself. LOL Not that I haven't thought about changing and writing for the market, but I don't think it would work. :)

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  10. Wonderful analogy!!! Well said!

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  11. The image of Stephanie Meyers hanging out of a sunroof cracked me up. Thanks for making me laugh!

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  12. Awesome post. Like Shaun, I was cracking up about the SM sunroof imagery. Your analogy is spot on, and probably closer to the truth than we wish. Nice job though :)

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  14. I'm dying here! But in all seriousness, I do think it's important to keep track of what other writers are doing as well, see if you can spot where the hivemind is heading.

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  15. LOL! Yes, I have the two screaming children in the back as well. Sigh.

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  16. Oh my gosh, Kate! This was the best--post--evah!!!

    SO funny, and so true. The driving/highway analogy is perfect. The timing in this industry seems slow at times, but I think in reality it moves much faster than we think. You've got to navigate the crazy freeway and several exits to keep up. ;) And... I'd be woooing! too :D

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  17. This analogy is so perfect! Great post! :)

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  18. If your heart is not in what you write, why bother? I write when a story won't let me go. If it is what is hot, all the better. But if I walk down the aisle and see one more title like WHY IS VAMPIRE BOYFRIEND SO MUCH PRETTIER THAN ME? I think I may bay at the moon.

    I write what I would like to read. Of course, I am not yet published so I may the Emily Dickinson of my age, genius but unread in her lifetime. Of course in the field of genius, I am more in league with Wilie E. Coyote -- I drop off the cliff, but I keep on trying.

    Have a productive week, Roland

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  19. I write what I want to read - does that mean I write for myself or for others, I'm not sure. I defintely don't follow the trends or write what I think might be "hot" next.

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  20. Great post. I've always maintained that I don't write for the market. I write the stories I *have* to write and trust my readers to follow me. But, of course, you're right that I do indeed write for the market in the sense that I am absolutely writing to sell books and how can I not be aware of what sells and what doesn't? Lots of food for thought here.

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  21. Your sunroof analogy made me laugh. I write for myself. And writing through the eyes of different age characters comes easier than I thought it would be. Keep your chin up despite how good a target it makes, Roland

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  22. Great description..I really honestly have to say I write for me but I am learning to pay more attention to marketing trends.

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